Chicago; Detroit; New York City; Chapel Hill, N.C., and Washington, D.C.: Mad, like Shirley Temple's Eyes
Gener, Randy, American Theatre
POOR PECOLA THINKS THAT IF ONLY she had beautiful blue eyes she would no longer be thought of as unattractive or dirty. Sublimating her desire to be loved into a desire to look white, she squeezes her eyes shut and imagines her black female body fading away one limb at a time. "Almost done, almost," she says, wishing away the anguish, abuse and ridicule heaped upon her by family and schoolmates in small-town Ohio in 1941. "But my eyes is always left. It don't matter how hard I try."
In the course of Toni Morrison's sad, angry tale The Bluest Eye, Pecola is raped and impregnated by her father, Crushed by the brutality, she withdraws into a fantasy world in which she is beloved because she has the bluest eyes of all: "Like Shirley Temple, or Mary Jane on the Mary Jane candies. Or Jane in the primer at school."
Chicago-based playwright Lydia Diamond, who adapted Morrison's 1970 novel, admits that Pecola's tragic unraveling from innocence to insanity is not easy to witness. "I have not shirked away from the themes of the book," Diamond says. "Morrison herself was quick to acknowledge the shock values around the themes of sexuality and violence in her book. …